How to Snack Before & After Workouts for the Best Results

You may be intentional about signing up for your favorite fitness class, scheduling a session with your trainer or getting out of bed to go for a run. These are commitments and you should be proud of your dedication and follow through—go you! But, did you know that how you nourish your body around this physical activity can impact your results and chance of injury?

If you waltz into your workout sluggish or feel out of gas halfway through class, it might be because you’ve neglected to consider your workout nutrition routine. As a fitness teacher and a certified nutritionist, my food strategy coaching with super active clients is always centered around the topic of timing meals before and after exercise. So, open your mind (and your fridge) and let’s get down to the business of nourishment.

Pre-Workout Nutrition Tips

When you eat, your body breaks down food that contains “good” carbohydrates (aka the kind that is not processed) and turns them into a sugar called glucose. This type of sugar lives in your cells and organs, and is stored to support the energy you burn in a high-intensity workout. In short, eating mindfully before you workout provides nourishment to help achieve better physical and mental performance.


1. Eat 2 hours to 30 minutes before you exercise. 

The ideal time to nourish your body before a workout is about two hours to thirty minutes in advance. This gives your body time to digest the food and store up glucose for energy production.


2. Eat a snack with complex carbohydrates + some protein.

The perfect pre-workout snack or meal combines whole, complex carbs and a little bit of protein. This nourishment provides sustained energy that will be dispersed throughout your workout.


3. Eat foods that are easy to digest.

To avoid indigestion during your workout, make sure you choose pre-workout eats that are easy to digest. If you are new to the pre-workout nosh, start with small portions to avoid stomach cramps.


4. Make a pre-workout meal plan.

If you are an early riser and like to workout in the morning, meal plan the night before. The number one concern I hear from my early bird students is, “I don’t have time to eat before class.” I recommend prepping your snack the night before and eating it on the way to class.


5. Hydrate before you exercise.

You want to hydrate your body before working out, but not to the point of feeling full. Start with 4 oz. of water and be sure to continue sipping throughout your workout.


5 Nourishing Pre-Workout Snacks

Below are 5 snacks or meals to eat 2 hours to 30 minutes before exercising for sustained energy during your workout.


1. Smashed Avocado Toast + Hard Boiled Egg

2. Black Bean Brownie Bites (Recipe)

3. Fruit + Nut Butter

4. Chia Seed Pudding

5. Hummus + Veggies + Whole Grain Pita or Crackers

Post-Workout Nutrition Tips

After a high intensity workout, your glycogen storage is depleted, which can make you feel exhausted. This means it’s time for a refuel. At this time, muscles take on a natural process of being broken down and are in need of TLC right away. Timing is key. Eating protein-rich food after your workout will help your muscles respond with the strength and tone you have worked so hard for.


1. Eat within 45 minutes of working out.

Timing is everything when it comes to post-workout recovery nutrition. Think ahead—if you won’t be home within 45 minutes of your workout, be sure to pack your recovery snack in advance.


2. Eat a recovery snack that is high in protein.

When we are active, our muscles go through a process in which microscopic tears occur. Essentially, we break them down before they can be built back up. Protein is the macronutrient predominantly responsible for repairing these tears, which means our body needs it after an intense workout.


3. Incorporate hydrating foods.

Depending on the intensity of your workout and how much you sweat, your body needs to replace lost minerals and vitamins. Be sure to hydrate post-workout with water, and incorpoate water-based foods like fruits and veggies into your post-workout snack.


4. Avoid processed foods.

Don’t undo the hard work you just put into your workout by eating overly processed, starchy foods when you leave the gym. Always avoid indulging in high sugar foods as your post-workout snack. When in doubt, reach for real, whole foods.

5 Replenishing Post-Workout Snacks

Below are 5 snacks or meals to eat within 45 minutes of exercising for optimal results after your workout.


1. Green Protein Smoothie (I recommend: Spinach, Apple, Almond Milk, Banana, Almond butter, Coconut water + Protein Powder of Choice)

2. Quinoa bowl + Roasted Veggies + Grilled Chicken or Salmon

3. Egg Souffle (Recipe)

4. Lentils + Roasted Veggies or Lentil Patty + Sweet Potato Fries

5. Greek Yogurt + Berries + Granola

Note: Individual body types, coupled with the intensity of your athleticism, should be taken into consideration when creating your nutrition plan. The meals and snacks I’ve listed will give you options to play around with, and you can feel for yourself if your energy levels change depending on what foods your body processes best. Use a journal and list the foods you eat, what time, and score your energy level from 1-10. To talk more food strategies with Jessi, check out The Food Athlete.



photo credit: Unsplash, The Food Athlete